The comments submitted in response to this proposal have been fully considered and reviewed. Many of the suggestions and recommendations received in writing and in person during the outreach sessions have helped to shape the province’s plan to improve intercommunity bus service in northern Ontario and develop the a long distance component of the province-wide Community Transportation Grant program.
While the 2016 proposal requested input on options to remove market entry controls for the intercommunity bus industry, the majority of comments received through consultation and engagement focused on the availability of services and service levels across the province, rather than the status of the regulatory regime.
Below is a summary of key comments received:
•Comments noted that controlling participation in the market does not provide innovation and does not deliver what users need.
• They noted that removing market entry controls could enable service providers and public transit agencies to work collaboratively to find solutions for transportation issues currently faced by unserved and underserved areas.
• Deregulation could also enable the introduction of alternative transportation methods, which may cater to needs of different submarkets.
• However, several comments also noted that deregulation does not solve the main issue of service gaps in rural and northern areas.
• Under deregulation, ridership would be the only metric for adding and or removing service. In such an environment, rural communities may often be the first to lose service.
• Some comments also noted that other jurisdictions have experienced a significant loss in service for smaller rural and remote communities post deregulation.
Demographic and Regional Needs:
• Some comments stated that deregulation could disproportionately disadvantage seniors, students, indigenous people and communities and those with pronounced healthcare needs living outside of urban areas.
• Intercommunity bus services often provide access linking Indigenous communities to crucial services such as medical appointments, employment opportunities, education, housing and emergency shelters, mental health and addictions treatment.
• Comments noted that there is an increasing population of seniors living in Ontario, particularly in rural areas and that transportation services should respond to the needs of these residents.
• Some comments suggested that the government include consideration for on demand transportation services for rural areas where a more regularly scheduled service isn’t viable.
• Several comments called for a basic level of affordable intercommunity bus service across the province.
• They noted that:
• Provincial funding is needed to service underserved and unserved communities in northern, rural and remote locations.
• There is no incentive to the private sector to provide service to many low-density communities in rural and northern Ontario, this pointing to a need for government controls and support to fill in the gaps.
• With respect to rural connectivity, comments stated that rural communities need to be connected to major centres.
• In many remote communities buses are vital for the transportation of medical, commercial and residential parcels.
• Comments noted that more service is needed that aligns with customer demands, and that buses should link and complement existing transportation service.
• A general theme among comments provided was that public transportation in Ontario that connects communities at a regional level is a necessity and investments should be made to enhance regional public transportation networks while also providing adequate funding for local partners.